Out of my comfort zone

I had to pack up my lunchbox and water bottles this week and move to a friend’s home about 70 miles away for some temp work. I was much more anxious than I’d have predicted — kind of like a recovering drunk, I guess, leaving her support group. I wasn’t taking my bike, didn’t really know the walking places, wouldn’t be in my kitchen and wouldn’t have round-the-clock access to livestrong.com and my obsessive calorie-counting.

It’s been interesting. My biggest NSV (non-scale victory) has been coming home mid-week this first Wednesday, snacking all the way home, entering my calories-in and calories-out on the computer and eating nothing else that night. I don’t expect I’ll have lost anything by the end of these two weeks, but maybe I won’t have gained either which, I guess, will be an SD (scale detente).

There are wonderful places to walk around my friend’s condo (and more dogs than I’ve ever seen in one place in my life) and lots of people out at all hours walking. Combined with 15 daily minutes of yoga, that’s good exercise for these 10 work days. (Even with the clearly marked bike lanes everywhere, I’m chicken to ride my bike in city traffic.)

When I lived in Charlotte for 10 years, I was a single mother of two, working my first fulltime job. My friend’s condo is in our old neighborhood and what’s surprising is not how much has changed in the 23 years since I left, but how little. Surrounded by that old environment, I recognize suffocating feelings of loneliness and dependency, wanting nurture. Which translate to wanting to eat. I did fairly well recognizing and managing that until Thursday night when I was tired. Cravings + fatigue = deadly tendency to eat in effort to “feel better.”

In the words of Anthony Bourdain in “Medium Raw” (HarperCollinsPublisher, 2010): “Where was my reward for all this self-denial? Shouldn’t I have been feeling good? If anything, all that relative sobriety pointed up a basic emptiness and dissatisfaction in my life, a hole I’d managed to fill with various chemicals (read: foods) for the better part of twenty-five (read: sixty-six) years.” 
 
My friend shared some of the Kona coffee and pineapple shortbreads she brought back from Hawaii in January, and I managed not to finish the entire box, even though she said they needed to be eaten. I did eat five (250 unnecessary calories) and felt better but not as masterful as I’d have felt if I’d had a glass of skim milk (80) and gone to bed.
 
I can’t pat myself too hard for not finishing the box because — like sex — I’ve kept most of my overeating private through the years. If you don’t see me eat that box of Wheat Thins, I didn’t, and we’ll ascribe my pudge to genes, etc.
 
We ate four suppers out and that was also a challenge because — even though dining out is shared and public — my friends wouldn’t judge or probably even think about my scarfing down a bacon cheeseburger with home-made potato chips and ranch dip.
 
The tricks for me seem to be complex carbs (like carrot sticks or fruit) before I go out and something that will take lots of time to chew while in the restaurant. Something like the wonderful, if over-priced, salad I had Thursday afternoon with two beloved former newsroom buds: Baby greens and lots of them, a lemon-thyme vinaigrette and a balsamic reduction, orange slices, a few candied pecans and three light-as-air goat cheese croutons. That kept me occupied through two Amstel Lights and lots of laughter.

I’ve eaten white beans braised with fresh rosemary and Mediterranean tuna salad (no mayo), black bean and corn cakes with tomatillo salsa, as well as the best salmon cakes and hushpuppies I’ve ever had in a restaurant. Friday He Who Ate Peanut Butter While I Was Gone and I had take-out shrimp tacos and Asian chicken salad from the Cluck ‘n’ Cup in my office building.

On Monday it starts again and I’ll struggle again to find some inner discipline, a structure, to which I can cling while staggering along this healthy eating path. My problem — in an unsalted almond nutshell — is that I’ve always looked outside myself for that structure. To a software program, a weight-loss organization, a diet buddy, a blog….Inside me, I find only cookies and more cravings.

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